3-Minute Mystery #3 (Can YOU Name the Office Arsonist?)

3-Minute Mystery #3 (Can YOU Name the Office Arsonist?)

Want to fire up the 'leetle grey cells'? Here's another quick DIY mystery to keep you guessing…



“This is an emergency,” came a muffled voice over the office intercom, barely audible above the whirring of the alarm. “There is a fire in the building. Do not panic. Please proceed as swiftly as possible to your nearest exit and vacate the building.” And then in a, frankly, panicked voice, added, “Whatever you do, do not panic!”

Janine groaned and glanced at her colleagues around her, expecting everyone to groan along. They’d had a fire drill only last week, complete with real-life firefighters who gave them a tedious lecture about the simple ways a fire could start in an office building, and how to protect themselves.

Surely it wasn’t time for another?

But no one else was groaning. Instead, they had their noses in the air and were smelling what she was trying hard to ignore — smoke. And lots of it.

“No, no, no!” Janine said as she watched them all grapple for their bags and bolt for the exit stairs. She didn’t have time for a blasted fire. She had an extremely important research project to present to the board of directors in the morning, and she still had one final chapter to finesse!

Janine had been working on the report for months, and the Board had all flown in for her presentation. It was to be her one chance to impress her patronising boss, Jake Motion, and his fellow cronies, perhaps earn herself a long-awaited promotion, one that she and her colleague Mattius were both vying for.

And now it was quite literally going up in smoke.

“You coming?” asked Mattius, frowning at her as he dumped some papers onto his desk and scooped up his phone.

“I just need to print a copy of this report,” she told him, madly tapping away at her keyboard. “If the computers get destroyed, we’ll lose all our hard work.”

“No time!” Mattius shot back. “Come on, Janine! This is serious. Let’s go.”

And with that he grabbed her by the elbow and pulled her away.

Watching it burn

The office workers were all huddled in a group out on the street, watching with awe as a contingent of firefighters charged into the building to douse the fire.

“Crikey you two, you gave me such a scare,” said the young receptionist, Sherry, when Janine and Mattius finally joined them. “The boss was wondering where you were. We were worried sick. Are you okay?”

“We’re fine,” said Mattius. “No thanks to Miss Conscientious over here.” He gave her the evil eye.

“I’m sorry,” Janine said, “but I was trying to save our report. I hadn’t even got to the section you did for me, Mattius, and now—”

“Who cares about that?” he said. “We can redo it all, but we can’t replace our lives, can we? I swear, the lengths you'll go to, to get that promotion…” He shook his head.

That’s when a handsome young firefighter approached. “Everyone okay?” he asked, causing Sherry to turn and offer him a wide, flirty smile.

“We’re all fantastic now that you’re here,” she purred, giving him anything but the evil eye.

"Glad to be of service," he replied, just as flirtatiously, before returning to his work.

Janine scoffed at Sherry. “Isn’t he the guy you were chatting up at the back of the office, last time we did that fire safety drill?”

Sherry’s smile dropped. “I don’t know what you mean,” she said, her skin blushing red.

“Somebody’s got a crush,” laughed Mattius just as their boss Jake Motion approached.

“Oh, hello Mr Motion. How is everything going?” he asked.

“What do you think, Matt?” he grumbled. “Come on, you're smarter than that. This could be a bloody disaster! Let’s hope they can contain the fire and we don’t lose everything.”

Good news and bad

The following day the workers all gathered at a temporary, makeshift office where Mr Motion filled them in.

“The firefighters did an extraordinary job yesterday and managed to stop the fire at its source, which luckily for us was in the storage room.”

“They can work that out?” asked Sherry, her cheeks ruddy. "What else did they find in there?"

“Not sure yet," he replied. "They're in there now, investigating. But the really good news is, the computers in the main office were all spared." He turned his eyes upon Janine and added, "Which means you can now give your report.”

Janine blinked rapidly. “Oh, okay… it’s just… well, I hadn’t quite finished it.”

Now his eyes were rolling, like he wasn’t surprised. “Well my dear, I suppose I can ask the Board to tap their toes in their hotel rooms for a bit longer. What about after lunch? Is that enough time? Or should I hand the whole thing over to Mattius this time?”

"No, no," she said quickly, but her confidence was all blown. Despite her hard work, Janine felt like her grand plans for a promotion were about to go into storage as well.

Janine needn’t have worried about her research presentation. She would not be giving it today. By lunchtime, the investigators had discovered that the fire had been deliberately lit, and someone who was present at the fire was under arrest for arson.


The fire chief has found evidence of who it was that started the fire, and has learned it is one of the people mentioned in the story above.

Who do you suspect of starting the fire and why?

I'll reveal the arsonist in my next blog. Until then, sign up for my newsletter here or catch one of my longer, novel-length whodunnits at your favourite online book store or click:

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xo Christina